Question of terminology
Problems of terminology peculiar to masonry in France have already cropped up and will no doubt continue to do so.
Here we propose to look at: ORDER and OBEDIENCE *, as dealt with in the following article, posted on January 7th 2010 on the Brie-Champagne Blog (“BBC”)
· Translator’s note: the two words are commented in their French context. The reader is warned of introducing English connotations of the words that do not necessarily cover the same meanings, and very liable to make the issue more confused.
I will try to draw a clear distinction between “Order” and “Obedience”. For years, the two have been totally confused and this goes back to well before the arrival of the present Grand Master.
Roughly speaking, to simplify, the obedience is an administrative structure, “profane” (or non-masonic) and contingent, i.e. random. In as much as we are concerned, it is the G.L.N.F. founded in 1913 and bound to disappear one day in the form we know it.
Conversely, the Order is a question of what is sacred and absolute: Freemasonry existed long before the G.L.N.F. for the good reason that initiatory Orders (for which no one could give a date of foundation) have transmitted the same basic message in different forms “from time immemorial”.
The obedience looks after the “profane” or non-masonic administration of the body and its material estate; the Order sets itself apart from all that. As one of our eminent brethren from another Province put it: “the obedience provides the electricity, the Order gives the Light”.
Now, what about the expression “Chefs de l ‘Ordre” (Tr: “Chiefs of the Order”, as all newly installed WMs in the GLNF are informed they are) an expression constantly being thrust at us? The only “Chiefs of the Order” (V. Ceremony of Installation) are the masters in the chairs who alone can make a newly initiated mason and transmit their powers. These things cannot be done by a Grand Master of an obedience (even if he tends to “make masons ” at the drop of his hat.)
Furthermore, initiations do not take place at meetings of a PGL or the GL. The GL does not decide who the WMs or the candidates for initiation are to be. The Lodges are sovereign and so it should be.
Matters of “Order” fall solely within the work and workings of the lodges and over them the obedience has no power of a spiritual or initiatory nature.
To quote M.Lepage: “The Order is initiatory, traditional, masonry”. “It has no known historical origin”. “It dates from time immemorial”, unlike Masonic bodies or obediences whose dates of foundation and historic evolution are known. “The Order” is universal, of an unknowable essence and absolute”, while the various obediences, ours included, are only the outward shells of a truth that is from beyond them.
In essence, the Order is metaphysical, whereas its manifest form, the obedience, is traditional. Well, and although that is not the case with us, there could be lodges that belong to no obedience, but there cannot possibly be an obedience without lodges!
The conclusion I wish to draw is that what happens in an obedience can absolutely be challenged without the least grievance or affliction to the Order or our solemn Obligations.
Then, let us so dare!